Steve Chapman

California exemplifies the disconnect between voters who want to exercise authentic self-government and elected officials who prefer not to let a little thing like democracy deprive them of their livelihood. The latter group is very good at stifling competition at the polls.

The solution is obvious: Take the decisions away from those who have a powerful interest in the outcome, and give them to an independent commission. Californians voted in 2008 to do exactly that. But this year, opponents managed to get another ballot initiative to return control to the legislature.

What arguments do they offer? Because former elected officials, candidates and lobbyists are barred from serving, they say in the official voter guide, "those who have deep experience, knowledge or interest in government will be excluded." Right. And burglary laws should be repealed because burglars were not invited to help draft them.

The commission, the critics lament, would "strip voters' power to determine who represents us." The theory is that when we elect legislators in rigged districts to create new rigged districts, democracy triumphs. But the point of the commission is to give voters a power they so obviously lack when politicians get to choose the people who are supposed to choose them.

One of the bedrock beliefs of our democracy is that here, the people rule. Gerrymandering is the legislators' way of saying: Not if we can help it.

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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